Company Research Critical to Your Job Search

Recently the presenter of a teleseminar I was participating in made a comment that blew my mind. She mentioned an experience where only 2 of 10 candidates for 2 job openings actually knew what the company did! In other words, 8 candidates had not bothered to do basic research about the company before they went into the interview. Can we say, “waste of time”? And not just the time of those candidates but, even more important, the time of the company employees interviewing them.

I would be willing to bet that situation left a terrible impression with the interviewers, and it’s not the kind of impression you want to leave when you’re conducting a job search–whether or not we have a difficult job market (which we do). If you or someone you know is tempted to avoid the research stage, my advice is: “Don’t do it!” Aside from a genuine personal emergency, the only reason for skipping company research in your job search is, I’m sorry to say, laziness.

Where to Do Company Research for Your Job Search

You have numerous resources available to you both online and offline. It makes good sense to split your time and effort between the two, although not necessarily 50-50. Below are a few suggestions to consider; however, don’t feel you should limit yourself to those.

Online:

  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn offers more than one way to research companies and the people who work there or used to work there. For example: At the top of the screen, click on the “More” button and then on “Skills and Expertise.” Enter a skill you have that’s key to the work you do, then tell it to search for that term. When I entered “Interview Preparation,” the page that came up included 8 Interview Preparation Professionals (3 of whom I know personally); 4 Interview Preparation LinkedIn groups; Related Companies (those that use or provide such skills to others); and Related Locations. If I were interested, I could click on one of the “Related Companies” and see what it is/does.
  • Manta: This site is geared toward small businesses. It lets you search by top industries, US companies and worldwide. Although you can’t get direct information about large companies, you can, for instance, put in “Cisco Systems” and do a search, which brings up a list of companies that sell and/or install Cisco products.
  • Corporate Information: If you have a particular company you want information on (especially financial information) and don’t mind spending $59, you can order a report from Wright Investors’ Services. Other sites that also charge access fees can be much more expensive, such as Hoovers, and they generally aren’t affordable for an individual.

Offline:

  • Universities and colleges: Sometimes educational institutions will have library reference materials that are available not only to students but to alumni. If you’re a graduate of a particular institution, check to see whether it has such resources and will allow you to use them.
  • Local business newspapers: The Business Journal company publishes different versions for numerous geographic locations, and it has good information on companies–what they’re doing, who’s being promoted or has left a company, and so on. For example, you can subscribe to the electronic version or both electronic and print versions of the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal. You can also subscribe to their annual Book of Lists, which has information on hundreds of companies in numerous business categories.
  • Chambers of Commerce: In some Chambers, members will be primarily small businesses rather than large companies, but not always. Regardless, they can sometimes be a good source of information regarding businesses located in their geographical area, whether or not those companies are Chamber members.

Using Company Research to Prepare for Job Interviews

As I mentioned at the beginning, it’s hard to believe anyone would go into an interview without researching the company. In fact, I strongly recommend that clients do that before they submit their resume. Whether online or offline, it’s rare, if ever, that you won’t find at least some information to give you a few insights into what the company does–its products or services, its target customers, and so on. Use that information to help you figure out how you could fit in and become a valuable contributor. Then keep that in mind as you prepare for the interview.

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